Saturday, November 18, 2006

Linux, Microsoft and XNA

About a year ago I decided to give Linux a chance (I chose Ubuntu). I assume I'm not an average PC user since I've been a programmer since 1986, so if someone could use Linux as the operating system for a desktop computer (my home computer), I should be able to do it as well.

In the last year I used Linux (I'm definitely not an expert, and I don't have the time to become one), and found many great things it can do, but also a lot of shortcomings. During this time I found myself wondering a lot about what's missing (or wrong) in Linux that prevents me from recommending it to my relatives (for whom I provide regular technical support).

At this point, there are quite a few reasons why non-technical people should not switch to Linux. One that's been there for quite a while is that modern games are not ported to Linux. A PC is still used a lot for games, and that's where Linux fails. Don't get me wrong - after working a bit with Linux, it looks like it's inherently better than Windows when it comes to many aspects like handling files, security, and networking. Still, I assume many people won't switch to Linux because there are no games.

Enters Microsoft XNA. It's main purpose is to let hobbyists develop games more easily - for Windows and for the Xbox 360. I gave it a try and it looks like an excellent framework - I only tried 2D stuff and still managed to see its power and simplicity. I think XNA will be a success.

The real question is if we're going to stop playing games on PCs, and start playing them mostly on game consoles.
  • If the answer is yes, then Microsoft just made it easy for small publishers to create small games for the Xbox 360, but it will loose one of the main reasons not to switch to Linux. In this case, it's also important for Sony to come up with something similar to XNA really fast...
  • If the answer is no, then XNA is a really nice framework for building PC games, and the Linux community should start working on an alternative. Microsoft was smart in investing in DirectX a decade ago, and if PCs are going to be used a lot for playing games in the future, this is another smart move from Microsoft.
The open source community can definitely build an XNA alternative for Linux. Something that would make developing Linux games a breeze. I'll join such a project, but I'm too new to Linux to be able to contribute significantly. Any volunteers?

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